Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The First Playtest

I said Frontiers would be ready to playtest over Christmas - my family and friends are excited to try it. I said it would be ready because I decided it was high time I got the core gameplay working, and the embarrassment of having nothing to show is an excellent motivator. But now that I have about a month left to go, I'm starting to wish I hadn't said a thing, especially since I know a new season of Breaking Bad work is scheduled to drop on me like a ton of bricks in December.

On the one hand this deadline did exactly what I'd hoped it would - it forced me to step outside of the comfort zone of Let's get this working just the way I want and into the world of This needs to happen or the game won't exist. And that's been fantastic for progress, if not stability.

On the other hand - Christ almighty there's a lot left to do. And I can already see all those sad looks I'll get if I have to tell them Sorry, it's not ready like I said it would be. It's the same look you get when you tell someone a pet died, only worse, because what really died is your integrity. And there's that half-amused undercurrent of Oh, I see, so you're NOT really doing this for a living. My mistake.

And the worst part is, because I haven't done this before - this being creating a game from start to finish - I haven't leveled up my estimation skill. Ask me how long it'll take me to complete a VFX shot and I'll give you an estimate accurate to within a half hour. Ask me how long it'll take to implement a game feature and all I can tell you is it'll happen someday. I hope.

Did I say that was the worst part? I'll do you one better. The worst part is, they will almost certainly dislike the game, for two reasons. First, it's difficult to stay alive, even when nerfed for playtesting. Second, despite being more focused than a pure sandbox like Minecraft, it can still be hard to figure out exactly what to do next. That may be remedied as I write the Almanac - The Adventurer's Almanac, which I'll get into later - but for this session I'm expecting a lot of blank stares.


The thing to remember is that my goal during a first playtest is to seek information, not validation. If go in hoping for compliments I'll walk away disappointed and make everyone uncomfortable in the process. If I go in hoping for a guiding light, I'll walk away satisfied no matter what their reaction. Because even if they hate it from top to bottom, that's information I can use to make the game better.

Alright. Enough hand-wringing. Time to get fire working properly...